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It wasn’t all bad news in 2020, although the good news went more unnoticed than usual. What follows is a selection of breakthroughs, victories, and reasons for hope for a future with greater human and planetary health.
1. Advances HIV prevention in women
Can an injection every two months prevent HIV in women at risk as well as a daily pill? According to the results of a study of the HIV Prevention Trials Network the answer is yes. In fact, the data indicate that injection is a 89% more effective, based on the study of 3,200 women from seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Long-acting injectables could revolutionize HIV prevention and treatment by reducing medication intake and facilitating adherence to medical guidelines, which in turn is essential to curb the transmission and development of drug-resistant viruses. The study, which was completed earlier than planned due to the effectiveness of the injections, represents a step forward in the fight against diseases. In addition to injections, the potential of intravaginal implants and rings to combat various ailments is also being investigated.
2. Strawberry flavored HIV drugs for babies are launched
Bitter and difficult to swallow tablets or alcohol syrups that must be kept cold. These are the most common options for treating babies with HIV and why many lose the battle against the virus. Hence the importance of the first pediatric formulation of dolutegravir (DTG), one of the leading first-line drugs against HIV, will be marketed as a soluble strawberry-flavored tablet. This generic drug will see the light thanks to the agreement reached between various pharmaceutical companies and global health initiatives, and will be available for $ 36 a year. This is possible thanks to Medicines Patent Pool (Drug Patent Fund), whose licensing agreements allow generic manufacturers to produce more affordable versions of DTG in various countries – 121 for children’s formulations and 95 for adults.
3. The second largest Ebola outbreak ends
On June 25, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced the end of what had until then been its second largest Ebola outbreak to date. It had taken two years of struggle, the registration of 250,000 contacts, 303,000 vaccinations and more than 16,000 health workers to end the emergency that emerged in North Kivu in 2018. But it became clear that you cannot let your guard down. In the same month that this crisis ended, the eleventh outbreak was declared due to some cases in the province of Ecuador. In November, the country declared itself Ebola free again.
4. Africa eradicates wild poliovirus
Africa became officially free from wild polio viruses, that is, they are naturally present in the environment. “This is one of the greatest global health achievements of our time,” said the CEO of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The polio virus is most commonly transmitted from person to person through contaminated water and usually affects children under the age of five, causing irreversible paralysis and even death. There is no cure, but it can be prevented with a vaccine. To this day, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last countries in the world with wild poliovirus.
5. Vaccination against covid-19 begins
In March, the WHO officially declared the covid-19 pandemic, after 114 countries declared cases. At the beginning of December, the first vaccinations began in the United Kingdom and the United States. But creating these vaccines has not been a nine-month job. It took decades of research on issues that have nothing to do with the coronavirus for these products to be developed in just a few months. This was explained to this newspaper by the founder of the HIV and Cancer Research Units of Harvard University William Hasseltine, who led the work to sequence the HIV genome in the 1980s.
6. The World Food Program wins the Nobel Peace Prize
“For his work to combat hunger, for his contribution to improving conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for promoting efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.” This is how the Norwegian Nobel Committee explained its decision to award the prize to the World Food Program, highlighting the importance and the fragility of food security in the world. An evil that is being aggravated by the climate crisis and, now, by the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the United Nations warned the world that there are 690 million people who go hungry and 2 billion who cannot afford a healthy diet.
7. Biden bets on the climate and global health
US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to strengthen relationships with multilateral organizations and international partners. At the health level, it is committed to rejoining the WHO and collaborating with other countries to face the coronavirus pandemic. It remains to be seen if the country joins COVAX, a coalition of 172 countries for equitable access to covid-19 vaccines globally. China joined in October and Russia remains absent. In the climatic plane, Biden has affirmed that he will re-sign the Paris agreement; It will invest 2 billion dollars – about 1.7 billion euros – over four years in clean energy and will reduce carbon emissions from the electricity sector to zero by 2035.
8. Increase commitment to the oceans
This December, 14 countries They have committed to sustainably managing 100% of their marine space by 2025, protecting an ocean expanse the size of Africa. The members of the so-called Ocean Panel, which includes Portugal, Norway, Mexico and Chile, have also shown their commitment to reduce pollution, tackle overfishing and declare 30% of their waters as protected marine areas in the next decade. The group discusses the effects of an economy that is respectful of marine ecosystems: food production six times higher, 40 times more renewable energy, and the reduction of a fifth of the emissions needed to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change.
9. China improves protection of pangolins
The pangolin is the most trafficked mammal on the planet, especially in Asia. Although it is protected internationally, more than 128 tons of pangolin meat and scales were intercepted last year, a record high that puts its future in jeopardy. The good news is that China, one of the largest consumers of pangolin scales, has removed them from its traditional medicine ingredient list. It has also maximized the legal protection of these animals, imposing prison sentences for those who hunt and trade with them.
10. They discover a reef higher than the Empire State Building
Australian scientists were mapping the seafloor when they spotted something unusual about four miles from the Great Barrier Reef. Neither more nor less than a coral reef 500 meters high and 1.2 kilometers wide, taller than the Eiffel Tower (324 meters) and the Empire State Building (443). Something like this hasn’t been documented in 120 years, the researchers explained. Schmidt Ocean Institute. These corals are in good health despite the fact that since 1995 the Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its specimens to global warming.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.